Editorial: The price of an orange

By Linda Hall


I declare I have been well and truly stung.

Stung to the tune of $400 for not declaring a stupid orange which I completely forgot was in my handbag when I went through Auckland Customs.

The offending orange had been in my bag for two days. I took it with me on a day trip just in case I needed a pick me up.

When I left my hotel in Fiji at 5.30 that morning the lovely staff had given me breakfast in a box, muffins and fruit. I made sure to get rid of anything I hadn't eaten when I boarded my plane homeward bound.

I dutifully ticked all the boxes declaring I had nothing to declare and was waved through customs. Then suddenly this little dog was at my ankles. Dog handler: "Have you got any food in your bag madam?"

Me: No.

Dog handler: Have you had any food in it recently?

Me: Um, yes I had an orange in there a couple of days ago.

Dog handler: May I look?

Me: Of course.

I actually laughed when she pulled out the orange. I found out it was no laughing matter.

Me: Oh goodness I'm so sorry I completely forgot about that.

Then a male officer asked me to follow him.

Me: It was a genuine mistake you know. I wasn't trying to smuggle an orange into the country. I know how important it is to protect our biosecurity.

He just nodded and smiled and kept walking.

Me: You're not going to fine me are you?

They did. I was issued with an infringement notice and given 14 days to pay. Just days later I read about a Vietnamese man who had five large live crabs in his bag. But the very clever man declared them. He was charged a service fee of just $20.

I know customs are just doing their job - and a fine job too - and it wasn't the orange that was stupid but me, but honestly I am not a smuggler, and I think the fine far exceeds the "crime".

- Hawkes Bay Today

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